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Majority Decisions
Principles and Practices


Stéphanie Novak, Jon Elster, Olivier Christin, Olivier Beaud, Gerry Mackie, Michel Balinski, Rida Laraki, Adrian Vermeule, Melissa Schwartzberg, Pasquale Pasquino, Samuel Issacharoff
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  • Date Published: September 2014
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107054097

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About the Authors
  • This book presents the most complete set of analytical, normative, and historical discussions of majority decision making to date. One chapter critically addresses the social-choice approach to majority decisions, whereas another presents an alternative to that approach. Extensive case studies discuss majority voting in the choice of religion in early modern Switzerland, majority voting in nested assemblies such as the French Estates-General and the Federal Convention, majority voting in federally organized countries, qualified majority voting in the European Union Council of Ministers, and majority voting on juries. Other chapters address the relation between majority decisions and cognitive diversity, the causal origin of majority decisions, and the pathologies of majority decision making. Two chapters, finally, discuss the counter-majoritarian role of courts that exercise judicial review. The editorial Introduction surveys conceptual, causal, and normative issues that arise in the theory and practice of majority decisions.

    • Critiques and offers an alternative to the standard social-choice analysis of majority voting
    • Includes extensive discussion of multilayered majority voting
    • Offers an unusual and attractive combination of normative and historical analyses
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The essays published in this book give very broad and deep perspectives on the varied roles played by the principle of collective decision by majority rule. Essayistic in form, the studies give insights into historical examples and specific value issues in majority decisions. I strongly recommend this volume for its varied points of view on electoral systems.' Kenneth J. Arrow, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University

    'This is an important collection of essays for anyone interested in theories of representation, covering topics from jury decision making to federalism to voting in the European Council of Ministers. The book begins with an insightful and comprehensive discussion of why the concept of majority rule is not nearly as simple as it might first appear. It includes both primarily theoretical contributions, such as the chapters by Balinski and Laraki, and by Mackie, on voting methods and the theory of democracy, and more historical essays, such as the chapter by Christin on the organization of religious bodies in Switzerland during and after the Reformation and conflicts between faith and majoritarianism. It also includes several contributions that combine theory and history, such as the Elster chapter on nested majorities, which discusses the US Continental Congress, the Federal Convention, and the French Estates.' Bernard Grofman, Jack W. Peltason Chair of Democracy Studies, University of California, Irvine

    'A stimulating collection of essays on the neglected subject of majority rule and its variations. Students of politics and history will find much valuable material in this book, as will all those who are fascinated by decision-taking rules.' Joseph Jaconelli, Law School, University of Manchester

    'The principle of majority rule is both compelling and unsettling. With this volume Novak and Elster have given us the most complete analysis to date showing how a range of different societies and organizations have grappled with this contradiction. It is certain to remain the reference on the topic for years to come.' David Stasavage, New York University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107054097
    • length: 288 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 26 b/w illus. 6 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction Stéphanie Novak and Jon Elster
    2. Putting faith to the ballot Olivier Christin
    3. Nested majorities Jon Elster
    4. The issue of majority in a federal system: constituent power and amendment of the federal compact Olivier Beaud
    5. The reception of social choice theory by democratic theory Gerry Mackie
    6. What should 'majority decision' mean? Michel Balinski and Rida Laraki
    7. The force of majority rule Adrian Vermeule
    8. The tyranny and brutality of majority rule Jon Elster
    9. Two effects of a high threshold of qualified majority Stéphanie Novak
    10. Democracy, judgment, and juries Melissa Schwartzberg
    11. Majority rule in constitutional democracies Pasquale Pasquino
    12. The majoritarian threat to democracy: constitutional courts and the democratic pact Samuel Issacharoff.

  • Editors

    Stéphanie Novak, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin
    Stéphanie Novak serves as a Roman Herzog Research Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance (Berlin). She is the author of La Prise de décision au Conseil de l´Union européenne: Pratiques du vote et du consensus (2011) and the recipient of the Prix Fondation Saint-Simon and Prix Dalloz for her dissertation from Sciences Po Paris.

    Jon Elster, Columbia University, College de France
    Jon Elster is Robert K. Merton Professor of Social Science at Columbia University. The author of 23 monographs, translated into 18 languages, his recent books include Securities against Misrule (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Alexis de Tocqueville: The First Social Scientist (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and Explaining Social Behavior (Cambridge University Press, 2007).


    Stéphanie Novak, Jon Elster, Olivier Christin, Olivier Beaud, Gerry Mackie, Michel Balinski, Rida Laraki, Adrian Vermeule, Melissa Schwartzberg, Pasquale Pasquino, Samuel Issacharoff

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